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What a Panic Attack Feels Like

Panic attacks are short, sharp and intense fear responses that are associated with anxiety and panic disorders. They are an exaggerated version of our bodies natural “fight or flight” response to stress. For first time sufferers, they can be shocking and incredibly scary.

Everyone people may experience different symptoms but most of the symptoms will fall into the below list:

  • A racing heartbeat

  • An irregular heartbeat

  • Feeling faint or light-headed

  • Feeling overheated

  • Feeling cold

  • Sweating

  • Shaking or trembling body and/or hands

  • Feeling sick

  • Sharp pain in chest or torso

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Feeling of choking

  • Legs turn to jelly

  • Disconnection from your mind or body or your environment around you (dissociation)

  • Fear of losing control

  • Fear you’re having a heart attack

  • Fear that you’re dying

  • Fear of fainting

Whilst these attacks are different for everyone and can hit at different times, they can often be confused with Anxiety attacks (look out for a separate blog on this) which is not necessarily the same, despite both being associated with anxiety and anxiety disorders. Equally, some people may experience a panic attack once but never get it again, whilst others get them regularly or often over a short period of time.

For some people specific situations may trigger a panic attack. For example, for those that have phobias, being confronted by the source of their phobia may result in a sudden onset of panic. For others the run up to a stressful meeting or a particular life event triggers them.

The good news is that most panic attacks only last between 5 to 20 minutes. They usually are at their worst around the 10 minute mark and then will begin to subside. This can be a helpful piece of information to know when going through a panic attack as you know it won’t last long.

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